After a chaotic Week 1, teams will look to either keep the good times rolling or bounce-back from a season-opening loss (or tie). Here are the moves and subsequent Week 2 matchups on my radar, along with how they could impact the outcome of these games.
Russell Wilson’s deep ball vs. Texans secondary
Latest Odds: Denver Broncos -10
If there was a recipe for a bounce back game, this would be it. Russell Wilson makes his Broncos home debut after Monday’s debacle. He faces the Texans, coming off an improbable tie against the Colts.
You’d think Nathaniel Hackett would want to actually let Russ cook in the aftermath of Monday’s loss, especially considering these numbers. Wilson’s average pass traveled just 6.6 yards downfield in Week 1, 23rd in the NFL, after he had the longest average throw distance in the league last year (9.9). He also only targeted wide receivers on 36% of his passes against the Seahawks, by far the lowest rate of any QB last week. Since when did Russ become captain checkdown?
Week 2 would be the perfect time to open it up and play to Wilson’s strengths, the deep passing game. The Texans allowed the highest completion rate on throws traveling at least 20 yards downfield last season. They weren’t tested in Week 1 against Matt Ryan in that department, even with two starters in the secondary making their NFL debuts (Derek Stingley. Jr and Jalen Pitre). It should be a different story against Wilson, though, as no one has more deep ball touchdown passes than him since 2020.
You also can’t expect the Broncos to fumble on the 1-yard line twice.
Pick: Broncos -10
Latest Odds: New York Giants -2
They’ll square off with Carolina in Week 2 after the Panthers were gashed for 217 yards on the ground in a heartbreaking loss to the Browns. The only team to allow more rush yards in Week 1 was the Giants opponent, the Titans. The Giants ground game may not be an aberration, either. 155 of Saquon Barkley’s 164 rushing yards came when the Giants utilized motion, either at, or before the snap, on Sunday. That’s already more yards with motion than he had all of last season.
The play design was more dynamic, and Barkley looked like he turned back the clock on his 68-yard run, hitting 21.1 miles per hour, his fastest speed since before his ACL injury, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
With Daboll dialing up plays to create space for a rejuvenated Barkley, the Giants can capitalize on the Panthers vulnerable run defense.
Pick: Giants -2
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Lamar Jackson vs. Dolphins blitz
Latest Odds: Baltimore Ravens -3.5
The Ravens lost, 22-10, in Miami as 8.5-point favorites last season, the fewest points scored in any start in Lamar Jackson’s career.
The Dolphins employed an ultra-aggressive strategy (even by their blitz-happy standards) to fluster Jackson: He faced cover-0 defense (zero high safety) 23 times, the most of any QB in the last 5 seasons. He was blitzed 25 times, the second-most in a game in his career.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh says Baltimore is ready for it this time around. “We would have been negligent if we hadn’t worked on it,” Harbaugh said. “It was something we needed to get a lot better at, and we studied it the whole offseason. We’ll have a plan for it and hope it works, because these guys are probably the best in the league at doing it right now. They do it more than anybody, they do it better than anybody and it’s just something they’re committed to.”
An effective ground game would be one way to take pressure off Jackson. They weren’t able to do that in Miami last year, rushing for under 100 yards, and they could be in trouble again based on last week’s performance. Baltimore rushed for just 63 yards against the Jets, its fewest in any of Jackson’s starts. While reinforcements may be on the way in the form of J.K. Dobbins, there’s no telling how much he can impact the game as a potential game-time decision playing in his first game since 2020.
Of course, Jackson could prove me wrong and set the world on fire, but the evidence and an improved Dolphins team (we didn’t even talk about their offense!) points toward Miami.
Pick: Dolphins +3.5